Ingley, S.J., Bybee, S.M., Tennessen, K.J., Whiting, M.F. & Branham, M.A. (2012). Life on the fly: phylogenetics and evolution of the helicopter damselflies (Odonata, Pseudostigmatidae). —Zoologica Scripta, 41, 637–650.
Helicopter damselflies (Odonata: Pseudostigmatidae) form a relatively small, yet highly specialized group of odonates, including the largest extant odonate (wingspan of ∼190 mm). Pseudostigmatids are found throughout Central and South America, with the exception of one species that is found exclusively in East Africa. Pseudostigmatids oviposit exclusively in phytotelmata and forage on orb-weaver spiders, which they pluck from webs. Pseudostigmatids also exhibit unique forms of both broad and narrow wings. Although the ecology of these behaviours and morphological features have been studied, their phylogenetic origins and evolutionary history are unknown. Here, we examine the origins of pseudostigmatid wing forms, oviposition in phytotelmata and spider feeding within a modern phylogenetic context, testing for single origins of each character. Phylogenetic analyses are based on 59 morphological characters and ∼5 kb of sequence data. Our findings include a well-supported monophyletic Pseudostigmatidae and Coryphagrion grandis as sister to the Neotropical genera. The genus Mecistogaster is paraphyletic, with Pseudostigma nested within the clade. The genus Microstigma is supported as monophyletic and forms a sister group relationship to the clade of Megaloprepus and Anomisma. The sister group relationship to Pseudostigmatidae is less clear. On the basis of this phylogenetic analysis, we propose three new tribes (Coryphagrionini, Microstigmatini and Mecistogastrini). As Pseudostigmatidae is monophyletic, the behaviour of gleaning spiders from webs appears to derive from a single origin. There are two origins of broad wings within Pseudostigmatidae. Oviposition in phytotelmata most certainly evolved multiple times within Coenagrionoidea. These findings provide new insights into pseudostigmatid evolution that can be used to generate hypotheses regarding behaviour and morphological adaptation in this unique and threatened group of damselflies.